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  • Writer's pictureCGEST Staff

CompuGirls Cyber Warrior Camp: The Third Time’s a Charm

By Dr. tara Nkrumah

Under the capacity building category to promote CGEST’s aim for gender equity in science and technology is a list of in-school and after school STEM programs. With a specific focus on dismantling the barriers for girls of color in STEM education, CGEST programs uniquely offer a culturally responsive computing environment for learners and teachers. In 2019 when I was just a postdoc, the Cyber Warriors Cybersecurity camp began. At the precipice of establishing a model for teacher preparation of culturally responsive practices, the Cyber Warrior camp started with five mentor teachers based in Hawaii. These five mentor teachers attended 90-minute professional development (PD) sessions to learn about the culturally responsive computing (CRC) theoretical framework developed by Dr. Kimberly Scott. In addition, they learned how to integrate CRC with the cybersecurity content. It wasn’t a perfect model in year one and the lessons learned were applied in year two.

Seeking to improve in year two, we adjusted the culturally relevant/responsive teacher professional development format. Separating the culturally relevant professional development sessions from the focus on how to implement the cybersecurity content made a difference. Recognizing the importance of mentor teachers’ interpretations of culturally relevant/responsive practices needed more than a single two-hour session so we changed to multiple sessions for 2 hours each meeting. These sessions allowed the mentor teachers more time to process the information and reflect on how they would incorporate the culturally responsive practices into how they taught the cybersecurity content. Our findings from the year two feedback confirmed that mentor teachers gained from the changes made which informed how we planned for year three.

The saying, third time’s the charm, seems appropriate as we start year three with confidence about the impact our culturally relevant professional development sessions are having on the more than double from year one, 10 mentor teachers from Arizona, Maryland, and San Diego. As the facilitator of these culturally relevant professional development workshops for the last two years, it has been great seeing the transformation. I believe the secret has been the focus on relationship building with the mentor teachers that in itself models what it means to be a culturally relevant teacher. I make sure to personalize the sessions to make their life experiences the source of the curriculum for the professional development while facilitating difficult conversations around social issues that promote inequities in STEM. Each mentor teacher attends four to five sessions that last two hours on the theory of culturally relevant pedagogy that includes readings and reflexivity exercises. I enjoy the opportunity to learn and grow with them in the implementation of culturally relevant/responsive practices and I look forward to the feedback in year three on how to make future PD sessions even better.


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